Millions of people in impoverished countries are alive today because a midwife was by their side when they gave birth, or they were vaccinated as infants by a nurse, or because their families learned from a community health worker to adopt healthy behaviors like breastfeeding, hand washing, birth spacing, and sleeping under a mosquito net.
Yes, improved sanitation has improved the lives of billions of people all over the world, and it's important to note that success. But we need to make some course corrections. The stakes are just too high. Leaving billions of people to live with "improved sanitation" that includes untreated sewage--that's an economic, environmental, and humanitarian catastrophe.
A UN group has been asking people in roughly 200 countries to set their own priorities for human development in an online survey called "My World." Overwhelmingly, participants have ranked a good education as their greatest priority, even amongst huge ongoing challenges to eradicate deadly disease, feed the hungry, improve nutrition and provide clean water.
Last year we learned that the world achieved an historic milestone that has changed the lives of more than half a billion people. The World Bank announced that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty by half has already been met, five years ahead of schedule.